While browsing the Internet, I was stopped short by an article about fat-burning foods, because the author’s contentions were pretty bold. Fat-burning foods, the writer claimed, have such a high thermogenic effect that calories can be burned away simply through the act of chewing. It also mentioned foods that contain nutrients and compounds that it said will stoke the metabolic fire.
I figured that with these foods doing so much burning, the article would recommend having several tall glasses of water nearby when you were eating them.
Jokes aside, it is very easy to get carried away with the promise of fat-burning foods. But let’s take a look at what the science says.
How do fat-burning foods work?
Fat-burning foods are said to work in a couple of different ways. The first has to do with them being foods that make us feel full. Foods that are high in fiber will do that, and the notion is that we will then eat less, and thereby consume fewer calories. In addition, high fiber foods are not easily broken down in the digestive system and require more energy to digest. This expenditure of energy, the thinking goes, contributes to weight loss.
Another way that fat-burning foods are thought to work is by speeding up metabolism. Foods such as carrots, tomatoes, and asparagus contain nutrients that raise the metabolic rate by accelerating the elimination of fat deposits and waste.
Does science support this?
While foods defined as fat-burning foods or “negative-calorie” foods generally are healthy choices, there simply does not seem to be any definitive scientific research to support the premise that they actually cause weight loss.
The Mayo Clinic, for instance, has pointed out that no research to date has confirmed that food can create negative calories. While conceding that it is theoretically possible to have negative-calorie foods, no reputable scientific studies back it up. Mayo scientists also warn that diets which promote only a limited number of foods can cause a person to be deprived of important nutrients. Instead, it recommends a balanced diet, coupled with exercise as a more viable alternative.
While it is also accepted that foods high in fiber and protein will keep a person full for a longer period, and that high fiber foods cause the body to work harder to digest them, the existence of fat-burning foods has not been unequivocally proven in scientific studies.
For example, beans are low in calories and require additional energy to digest. Milk is also frequently cited as a fat-burning food based on the notion that the calcium in milk increases metabolism. Lean protein such as turkey, fish, and chicken also increase metabolism and are considered fat-burning foods. But there’s no clear evidence that they have that effect.
Living life well-fed,